Over the last few weeks the TV Licensing Blog and its readers have been engaged in a campaign asking the Scottish Court Service for information about TV Licensing search warrant applications.
The BBC has previously admitted that the success of its TV Licensing enforcement operation relies heavily on the public perception that detector vans are effective and widespread, evaders face punitive fines and search warrants are granted whenever TV Licensing clicks its fingers. We know, as a matter of fact, that all three of those BBC-propagated rumours are farcically untrue.
The aim of this campaign was to publicly unpick and discredit TV Licensing's propaganda about the virtually non-existent threat of search warrants. As we've said before, much to the amusement of our learned friend TheJesusofKayaking, discrediting TV Licensing is as easy as shooting rats drowning in a barrel of piss. This latest campaign has proved no exception to that rule.
We drafted a template letter, which we published in an earlier post. We asked readers to adjust the template so it related to their local Sheriff Court and then submit it to the Scottish Court Service as a request for information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. In Scotland the Sheriff Court is responsible for dealing with TV Licensing search warrant applications and court cases.
It is still early days, but the responses received so far show a definite trend: TV Licensing has not applied for any search warrants in several major inner-city Scottish Sheriff Courts since 1st January 2011. The responses received so far apply to the Sheriff Courts in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy. All of the responses take the same format, which you can view here.
In the 2011, the last official statistics available, the population of Scotland was just shy of 5.3 million. The Sheriff Courts in question serve almost 2 million individuals. In other words, having sampled almost 40 % of the Scottish population (about a quarter of whom are under the age of 18 or over the age of 75) there is not one instance of TV Licensing having applied for a search warrant since 1st January 2011.
That, we're sure you'll agree, is statistically quite significant. It would suggest that TV Licensing apply for a infinitesimally small number of search warrants in Scotland, if any at all.
We are very grateful to the Scottish Court Service for having provided such timely and efficient responses to our information requests. We encourage readers to stay tuned for the results of our investigation into TV Licensing search warrant applications in England and Wales, which we hope to publish shortly.
TV Licensing in Scotland: All bark, no bite at all.